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Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley addresses the 2012 National Security Forum. NSF is an annual SecAF-sponsored event that brings together influential U.S. citizens with senior U.S. and international officers to discuss national defense issues. About 100 civilians from across the country will gather with Air War College students and staff next week. (U.S. Air Force photo by Melanie Rodgers Cox)
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Civilian, military leaders meet for annual NSF

Posted 5/2/2013   Updated 5/3/2013 Email story   Print story

    


special Courtesy of
Air War College


5/2/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. - -- The theme of this year's National Security Forum, which begins Tuesday, is "Rebalancing Towards the Asia-Pacific and Beyond: Implications for U.S. Grand Strategy."

According to Dr. Mark Conversino, dean of Air War College, "The Defense Strategic Guidance issued in January 2012 notes that our country is at a strategic turning point after a decade of war. While the guidance calls for a rebalancing of our military focus toward the vast Asia-Pacific region, it also calls for a continued emphasis on U.S. and allied presence in, and support of, allies and partners in the Middle East. The guidance, therefore, represents a forward-looking policy change, but especially in the current fiscal climate, this 'pivot' to the Pacific is a topic at the forefront of discussion at the Air War College as well as in Washington, D.C., Europe, Africa and even Asia itself."

The annual gathering of business leaders, state and local government officials and military leaders will spend three days engaged in a series of lectures and seminars focusing on the challenges facing the nation and the Air Force's role in supporting current and future strategies, international relationships and leadership in light of the new national guidance.

Air War College officials said that the fact that this year the school is conducting the Secretary of the Air Force's National Security Forum is in itself a reflection of how much importance the secretary places on the role of this capstone event. Since the implementation of U.S. federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, at the beginning of March, Air Force senior leadership has been working to ensure that the Air Force is able to meet its national security obligations now and into the future.

As the long-term consequences of shrinking budgets become a reality, the nation will need to make choices on fiscal priorities. In the midst of this backdrop, AWC officials said the secretary wanted to continue to foster the dialogue with experts outside of the federal government.

The insights gained through the sharing of information between the two groups can assist the nation to better adapt to future challenges as well as educate the generation of senior leaders who will be called on to make many of the difficult fiscal decisions.

Leaders at all levels of government are putting a premium on knowledge exchange to improve decision making and better utilize scarce resources, AWC officials said. In 1954, the Air Force held the first National Security Forum. As the Air Force grew as an independent service, the NSF provided a venue in which civilian leaders, private and public, could gain greater insight into issues impacting national security and the Air Force's unique role in securing peace.

However, the NSF quickly proved itself as an excellent example of a reciprocal civil-military intellectual exchange. The dialogue fostered at the NSF reconnects the senior and future senior leaders to the citizens they serve, and in turn, important relationships are built. This proved to be an effective method to increase the Air War College students' awareness of the larger range of challenges facing the nation as well as assisting them to better understand the resources available outside normal military channels.

"Given the nature of the Defense Strategic Guidance and fiscal challenges facing our nation, it is increasingly important that we maintain a strong interface with our citizenry, not less," said Maj. Gen. Scott Hanson, Air War College commandant.

Participants in the NSF will have the opportunity to explore the complicated political, military and leadership challenges arising from the "pivot" to Asia and the Pacific. In particular, the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance emphasizes the importance of military-to-military partnerships with other nations as a means of maximizing resources and promoting peace. By building more effective partnerships and capacity in the Middle East and Africa, in conjunction with enduring partnerships such as NATO, the U.S. is able to shift focus to Asia while still ensuring security in Europe, Southwest Asia and Africa.

The Asia-Pacific region is facing the possibility of conflict as rising economic power and national interests collide. The ongoing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan-China relations, and multiparty disputes of oil, gas, and fishing rights in the South China Sea are just some of many potential trigger points for conflict. The U.S. has sought to foster bilateral and multilateral relationships within the region to build avenues for dialogue and rebalance power differentials in hopes of resolving disputes and relieve tension.

"As the Air Force and nation rebalances its strategy toward Asia under fiscal constraints, it will rely on support and input from its external partners to find cooperative and innovative solutions to today's ever changing security challenges," said Dr. Christopher Hemmer, chair of AWC's Department of International Security Studies.

The Air Force will make this shift to the Pacific as it also seeks to recapitalize equipment and personnel strained by decades of war and engagement. To do this, the Air War College will start by educating innovative leaders who are prepared to seek unique and effective solutions to problems yet to be faced. The cooperation and information sharing fostered through the NSF is one of many methods of utilizing education to achieve efficiencies and improved productivity.

For more information on the NSF, visit the webpage at www.au.af.mil/au/awc/nsf_main.aspx, or friend the AWC Facebook site.



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